When Shaun Suisham lines up to kick off for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, he'll probably have to resist the temptation to run down the field and retrieve the football.
That's been his routine lately.
Suisham spent five weeks on the Cowboys' practice squad earlier this season, but the former Bowling Green State University kicker was released twice to make room for other players. So he got his kicks at a city park near Dallas.
Suisham only had one ball.
He would boot it and go chase it. Back and forth, up and down, for hours and hours.
"I was hoping to get back with the Cowboys, but I had limited resources and didn't have a lot of connections, and I only had one ball," Suisham said. "I was like the lonesome kicker chasing my ball."
After his daily workout, Suisham would retreat to his discount hotel and ask his girlfriend if the Cowboys had called, or for that matter, any other NFL team.
Suisham already knew the answer.
He was anticipating a call that might never come.
"Of course, I was hoping it was going to happen, but you never know," he said.
Despite the uncertainty of landing a job, Suisham kept kicking, kept working out. And he kept one eye on the Cowboys' kicking situation.
This past Monday, it all finally paid off. Dallas cut inconsistent kicker Jose Cortez less than 24 hours after he missed a 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter of a 13-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and signed Suisham to the active roster.
The 23-year-old wide-eyed rookie now has his own NFL locker and a trunkful of footballs to kick around.
"When I got the call from the Cowboys, I was really excited," Suisham said. "It was a great day."
He wasn't the only one who was pumped up.
Back in his hometown of Wallaceburg, Ont., just a chip shot from the border with Michigan, and less than an hour northeast of Detroit, his parents, Rick and Wendy, were ecstatic.
Three weeks ago, they had purchased airline tickets to go and visit their son this weekend. Two days later, he was released by the Cowboys.
"We had non-refundable tickets, so it was a bit of a bummer," Rick said.
Four days ago, their emotions did an about-face with one special phone call.
The Suishams' trip to Dallas will be much more delightful than they ever imagined.
Their son, a former junior hockey player in Canada, will be kicking for the Cowboys against the Arizona Cardinals. And he'll be doing so just three days after they celebrate their 27th wedding anniversary.
Not bad, eh?
"This is our best present yet, for sure," Rick Suisham said. "How are we going to celebrate? We're going to go out for dinner and some drinks, and Shaun's going to get the bill."
The 6-0, 199-pound Suisham, a self-taught kicker who was recruited by former Bowling Green coach Gary Blackney, is the all-time leader in Division I in both extra points (226) and attempts (232). He was a second-team All-Mid-American Conference pick as a senior last season, and is the Falcons' all-time leader in scoring (361 points) and field goals (45).
Suisham signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent this year. He had absolutely no chance of making the Steelers' roster, but coach Bill Cowher let him hang around and audition for other NFL teams.
After kicking one field goal and one extra point in three preseason games with Pittsburgh, Suisham was let go.
He worked out for the Cowboys the very next week and was signed to the practice squad Sept. 4. Suisham was released on Oct. 11 to make room for running back Keylon Kincade and then again two weeks ago to make room for wide receiver J.R. Tolver.
Now the Cowboys are hoping Suisham can bring stability to their kicking game. Cortez won the job in training camp by default after three-year starter Billy Cundiff suffered a severe quadriceps strain and was cut.
The Cowboys (4-3) have already been involved in five games decided by four points or less.
"We'll just bring Shaun in and see how he does," Dallas coach Bill Parcells said. "I don't know that he'll do any better, but it would be hard to live with what we got now. It's just too many games that are too close."
Ironically, the embattled Cortez was claimed off waivers Tuesday by the Philadelphia Eagles to replace former Toledo kicker Todd France, whom Suisham worked out with a few months ago.
Suisham expects to have a bad case of the butterflies prior to making his NFL debut Sunday. And seeing the famous Cowboys cheerleaders on the sideline may give him the jitters, too.
"I think I'll be more excited about the game than I am scared or nervous," Suisham said. "It's something that I have prepared a long time for, and thought about for so long. "My outlook is if I go in and perform to my ability, they're not going to want to replace me."
If Suisham kicks with the same kind of reliability he did at Bowling Green, he will have no problem finding people to bring back his football.